No More Excuses: Improving Business Processes and Decisions

Your business decisions can be only as good as the data and processes that go into them

Director and Distinguished Engineer, Offering Management, IBM

Business decisions—whether human or automated—are only as good as the information available at the time the decisions are made. Business process initiatives will struggle without high-quality data. Do your business process management (BPM) projects show any of the following indicators?

  • Challenges connecting customer accounts across systems
  • Multiple sources of data with varying degrees of data quality
  • Little understanding of what data quality is necessary
  • Proliferation of subprocesses for managing errors or exceptions

Master Data Management (MDM) provides consistency to improve the integrity of business processes, making those processes smarter, more effective, and productive. When MDM is the foundation of your BPM program, your organization can enhance its overall performance and gain differentiating value.

What is master data?

Master data drives every organization. It can include information about customers, products, patients, suppliers, partners, materials, accounts, locations, and so on. Master data provides the basis for critical business processes across the enterprise. It lies at the heart of every business transaction, application, report, and decision. Every organization has master data spread throughout various systems and lines of business, typically in nonintegrated and siloed data repositories. Master data is often inaccurate, incomplete, missing, or duplicated—resulting in inefficient, ineffective, and costly business processes. MDM provides a trusted view of critical entities typically stored and potentially duplicated in siloed applications. MDM is a discipline that provides a consistent understanding of master data and its relationships and hierarchies. It also provides a mechanism for consistent and trustworthy use of master data across the organization, prescribed by governance policies and a set of IT practices and processes designed to accommodate, control, and manage change. Smart organizations realize business processes and decision makers require trusted information that MDM can supply.

Using master data should be easy…and it is

With the capabilities provided by IBM® InfoSphere® Master Data Management software, organizations can easily add master data to their enterprise processes. The InfoSphere MDM platform includes the InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit. This toolkit has a suite of value-added capabilities designed to provide a solid data foundation for the construction of business processes run in IBM Business Process Manager. The InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit takes advantage of the extensible nature of BPM Process Designer to provide BPM developers with tools they are familiar with while working with MDM. Most enterprise processes will start and finish with master data. Developers should not have to guess which source systems have the data to drive business processes. Instead, IBM BPM can push and pull master data using the InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit. BPM developers can perform these activities with little or no understanding of MDM.

MDM in action

Let’s consider an example. Suppose we are building a customer onboarding business process to check whether a customer record already exists before a new record is added to the system. Using the out-of-the-box features of BPM Process Designer, we can quickly sketch out the process and define the points at which we need to use MDM to search for existing customer records. With the InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit installed, we can utilize the pre-built integration services to call an MDM search transaction by dragging the Call MDM Transaction integration service onto the canvas from the toolbox (see figure). We can pass in properties to specify the location of the MDM hub, its security credentials, and the customer name we want to search for. When the process is executed, Call MDM Transaction will search against the master data and bring back a list of possible matches. It will then allow the user to select one of the existing customer records. If none are found, a new customer record can be created. No More Excuses: Improving Business Processes and Decisions – figure 1 Calling an MDM search transaction   Supporting the business process implementation with master data requires no knowledge of the InfoSphere MDM services layer, and no code was required to call the MDM services layer. By simply dragging and dropping an integration service provided by the InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit, we can take advantage of the coding patterns that are encapsulated by the MDM integration nodes and quickly and easily bring MDM data into the business process. Integration services are just one of the many benefits provided by the InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit to simplify and improve the speed at which MDM-oriented business processes can be created. Additional InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit capabilities—extra UI controls (coach views), pre-built business objects representing common MDM domains, and mechanisms to generate MDM business objects directly from the InfoSphere MDM Workbench—make the definition and construction of MDM-oriented business processes a seamless and integrated operation. The InfoSphere MDM Application Toolkit includes the following features:

  • InfoSphere MDM business objects made available to BPM Process Designer
  • A full suite of integration nodes to drive enterprise processes with master data
  • MDM hierarchy controls and visualization widgets to add MDM hierarchical data to enterprise process UIs by dragging and configuring MDM hierarchy widgets
  • Master Data Policy Monitoring (MDPM) reports to assess the quality of master data created within enterprise processes

Any combination of these capabilities can be used with the base capabilities that are provided by BPM Process Designer to accelerate construction of business processes.

Aggregated, governed master data

Where data quality is a key aspect of your BPM program, look to InfoSphere MDM for this aggregated, governed, single view of master data. IBM recognizes the value of aligning BPM and MDM programs and is delivering powerful tools to help organizations make the most of this opportunity. Drag and drop high-quality master data into your IBM BPM–managed process, so when the customer comes knocking you will know who they really are and can engage with them appropriately. How has data quality affected your business processes? Please share your experiences in the Comments.


Video: IBM BPM for MDM Webinar: Improving Business Processes by Aligning BPM and MDM Demo: MDM Community for BPM Synergies IBM Redbook® publication: Aligning MDM and BPM for Master Data Governance, Stewardship, and Enterprise Processes